tv Your Business MSNBC November 17, 2013 4:30am-5:01am PST
actress turned entrepreneur turns her passion for knitting into a business. how she's helping business in great berington, massachusetts, a community finding unique ways to get locals to shop on small business saturday. that more coming up next on "your business." >> small businesses are revitalizing the economy and american express open is here to
help. that's why we're proud to present "your business" on msnbc. ♪ >> hi, there, everyone. i'm jj ramberg and welcome to "your business," the show that champions entrepreneurship by giving you tips and advice to help your small business grow. now we've all heard of work/life balance. for actress and entrepreneur karen allen, finding that balance when her son was growing up was the key to allow her to cultivate her love of designing knit wear and opening her own store in great berington, massachusetts. but now that her son is grown, she's had to figure out how to find a work/work balance again as she continues her career as a busy working actress and director, as well as a small business owner.
it's been almost six months since karen allen has been in her massachusetts textile design studio, splitting her time between acting, directing, and her business, karen allen fiber arts, a boutique that sells her collection of knit ware, this has been an unusually long time away, but things are set up to run smoothly when she's gone, and now that she's back, the never idle allen has a lot of catching up to do. >> i decide when i'm coming to work and i decide when i'm leaving, and i decide if i want to take a day off. not many jobs are like that out there. that's a pretty good gig, actually. >> that kind of freedom is a far cry from the demands of a movie set. with an acting career that took off with her film debut in 1978's "animal house." >> is this really what you're
going to do the rest of your life, hanging around with a bunch of animals getting drunk every week? >> allen's films, characters, and co-stars are legendary, like playing opposite harrison ford in "raiders of the lost ark." >> come back tomorrow. >> why? >> because i said so, that's why. >> the young widow in the sci-fi classic "star man" with jeff bridges, and bill murray's love interest in "scrooged." >> people made jokes because i would have a suitcase full of clothing and a suitcase full of yarn and i'd often set up a design studio in my trailers, because you have an enormous amount of time to kill often when working on a film. >> knitting has always been an integral part of her life. leaving her when she was 17 to study textile and clothing design at the fashion institute of technology in new york, then the acting bug bit and textile
design took a back seat. >> i began to work professionally fairly quickly, which was quite lucky in some ways, so it was a very much learning by the seat of my pants experience. >> and that seat of the pants experience is what prepared her to do something far outside her life as an actor. she became an entrepreneur. >> i always thought at some point when things maybe settled down a little in my life, i would start a little textile company. >> the time to start that company came in 2002, when she decided to take time off from her acting career to raise her son nicolas. >> i would put things into a gallery and people would buy them faster than i could make them. i thought, well, this is a good sign. the light bulb went on. maybe this is encouraging. i felt encouraged. >> two years after starting her design studio, allen opened up a store, now on railroad street in great berington, massachusetts.
>> i have to do things like buying trips and have to really get into accounting and really look to see. it's important to see how the store is doing and, you know, make sure we are able to pay our bills. >> as allen's business became successful, it quickly became more complex, with several employees on the payroll, she soon realized the joy of working and designing her unique line was being replaced by stress and deadlines. >> we ended up going into the clothing shows in new york, which becomes a very, very expensive proposition, so if you're spending that kind of money, then you really are under the pressure that you have to do well at the shows and this is what gets the most designers and takes them right down the tubes. >> after lots of trial and error and tinkering with the formula for making her business work, she got excited a few years ago by the prospect of outsourcing her production, especially since knitting her designs by machine was so physically demanding.
>> i'm hand operating this machinery and sometimes in the course of the day, i'll move this carriage across the stainless steel needles 4,000 or 5,000 times and it's like the end of the day, owe, ouch. and so the idea of somebody taking that off of my shoulders, literally off of my shoulders, was quite exciting at a certain point. >> when it turned out outsourcing wasn't an option because her designs were just too complex for mass production, she decided to take a radedly different approach, downsizing her studio so she could do most of the production herself. >> i kind of now have spared it back down so that it's basically just me, and i don't go to shows anymore. if somebody wants to have my stuff in their store, they have to come to me. it means that, you know, it's sort of at zero growth in a way.
and i've learned to think that that's not such a bad thing. >> her simpler business is now set up so it carries not only her lines, but a bunch of other unique small batch designers, as well, many local like herself, and with less pressure for constant growth, she's able to step away when she'd like to to go back to acting. >> i can go off and do a project and come back to this and this will always be here. this is a stable resource, it doesn't belong to anybody else. nobody can take it away from me and tell me i can't do it or i didn't get the job or something like that. >> karen allen's business is just one of many on great berington's main street, a beautiful town tucked away. that busy stretch of road is about to get a major facelift. fixing lopsided sidewalks, refacing the road, two hours
from boston and new york, the downtown there has an active shop local movement, their own currency, and plans to kick off the holiday season with a bang on small business saturday. >> i think it's a combination of being a rural lifestyle with some cosmopolitan elements, so there's culture here, there's theater, music, good restaurants. >> when smithsonian magazine named great barrington, massachusetts, the greatest small town in america. >> when people come to the berkshires, there's hardly any chain stores at all. we've managed to hold them off by having such a unique and original environment here. >> we have a really great, eclectic group of businesses, a little bit of something for everyone. >> we have a great community in the locals and out of towners.
>> and that well loved and unique downtown, like many main streets around the country, is about to get a facelift. after many years of heated debate, next year will mark the start of a massive reconstruction project with plans to rip up the roadway and sidewalks and replace the curb, park benches, and trees. no doubt business will not go about as usual. >> it's a complicated issue. i think it's going to be really hard for the town in the short-term. >> it's the kind of project people fear a bit because we're coming out of a tough recession and businesses are just starting to get back on their feet. we've heard in other towns reconstruction projects of this nature have cost anywhere between 20% and 40% of sales, so it's a little bit of a frightening thing, however, it's important to continually invest in your environment and the house that you live in. in the town that you do business in. >> 30-year main street veteran, who owns a gift shop that sells
american made crafts is worried about the impending project. >> people like this town because it's not a cookie cutter town. it has a distinct feeling, and it's very kind of organic and a little funky, and i don't know what's going to happen when that changes. >> and while some merchants already have a contingency plan -- >> i have really tried to pull our business more on to the internet, so that will help weather the storm. >> some, like adrian cohen, will just play it by ear. >> we'll just wing it. that's our usual contingency plan, i guess meditate and ask for help and figure out as we go, day by day. >> during construction, one unconventional idea that might encourage customers to continue shopping local is their own circulating currency, berkshires, an experiment launched in 2006, most small businesses in the area accept berk shares since it keeps money moving locally and gives
customers who use them a 5% discount. >> it behooves you to go ahead and spend it in the community after somebody has spent it in your store. it's a way to pay for your dinner out, your staff party, a way to pay for maybe office supplies or something if it's a local business that accepts them. >> as the town gears up for one last holiday season before construction begins, the merchants on main street are starting to plan for small business saturday. >> this small business saturday we're going to be having factory reps coming in to demonstrate, also we'll have food tastings, which people love. it's fun to come in and taste something good on small business saturday, and it gets people in the mood for the holiday gift giving season. >> we will probably do cider and wine in addition to a 10% discount and merchants banning together and offering these types of things, it really becomes the black friday for small businesses. >> with such a dynamic and supportive community, merchants
like jennifer and brooke are confident that customers will continue to support their businesses, even after construction on main street begins. >> i think that there's a feeling here of taking care of each other, you know, and not just look for the cheapest thing i can find in any big box store, but i'm willing to pay a little bit more if i can get it locally and support a local business. >> it's a great place to visit and also helps to offer an alternative to the great city shopping mall environment. >> great barrington was one example, but they are not alone. small businesses in communities around the country have had to get creative with their marketing to get customers to bypass those big chain stores nearby. in burbank, california, shopping local has taken off in the magnolia park section of the city, where once a month the retail community there comes together to not only revitalize sales, but also the neighborhood.
what are the ingredients for a good party? food, check. entertainment, check. discounts, check. it's the last friday of the month in the magnolia park section of burbank, california. normally at this hour the stores would be closing and streets would be quiet, but the creative small business owners here have figured out a low cost way of bringing in customers with a huge return. they call it ladies night out. where people are coming out in droves to celebrate and support these unique companies. >> i really like all of the small shops and things. i like all of it to help the mom and pop kind of businesses and stuff. it really makes me feel like i'm kind of a part of the community. >> but magnolia park wasn't always like this. just a couple of years ago, the area known as antique alley for its vintage resale and antique stores was a ghost town. >> the economy was horrible.
there were no jobs out there. there were -- there was no extra money. >> that's when susan cade and kathleen bailey came up with the simple idea of staying open late one friday every month to have a little party for their customers. >> cathy said, what do we do to get more women in, and i went, friday night, girls night, let's make it a party. have complimentary wine, and offer a discount. >> we have these big four red dice that light up. when they come in, they have to roll for their discount, and it's so funny because they bounce and it's hilarious. >> the idea started to take off when amanda vernon of mindfulness and jennifer hardaway decided they wanted to participate in ladies night, too. >> i jumped right on it. i said, absolutely, i'm in. there really were no goals other than to create a night people would come to the neighborhood
and see how great it is and how many great stores there are here. >> jennifer, amanda, and the other retailers in the area started working together on new ideas to attract more customers on ladies night. one of the best, inviting l.a.'s trendy food trucks to be part of the evening's festivities and with legions of food trucks, devotees following the whereabouts of their trucks with social media, many new customers are discovering magnolia park on ladies night every month. >> they use facebook and twitter to post where they are going to be, so they have our built-in audience already for them. so it's, i think, a win-win. >> the successive ladies night is also attracting new businesses to the area like shannon's wine bar, which has been doing free tastings on ladies night. >> to actually come in and open my business, if i didn't have the support of the community, it wouldn't happen. >> that feeling of the community was never stronger than it was during small business saturday, the day between black friday and
cyber monday reserved to support local small businesses. >> this sounds cheesy, but i cried a little. i really did. the store was full of people and they picked us as their small business to spend their morning. >> except instead of once a year, the feeling amanda had during small business saturday happens once a month. >> community is so support and knowing my customers' names and them coming in, that's what it really is about. >> still to come, carroll roth and gene marks joins us to answer your questions, including a very timely one about when a small business owner should consider providing health care to its employees. and john taffer of bar rescue offers tips through what he calls frequency marketing. ♪ ♪
you get your coffee here. you get your hair cut here. you find that certain thing you were looking for here, but actually you get so much more. when you shop at these small local businesses, you support all the things that make your community great. the money you spend here, stays here. in this place you call your neighborhood. small business saturday is november 30th. get out and shop small. when you can entice people to come back to your business for a third visit and then a fourth visit, then you know your marketing tactics are working. our next guest says in most
cases working with existing customers to build a business can be far less expensive, so here with tips on how to create a frequency marketing plan that will have a direct impact on your company's sales and profits, john taffer. you know him because he's the host and executive producer of "bar rescue" and the president of the nightlife and bar media group. john's new book, "raise the bar." so great to see you. >> nice to be here. we always do it by satellite. >> i know, and congratulations, because your book is a best seller. >> it is, i'm really thrilled. >> we're excited for you and happy to have you, getting people in and in and in to keep coming back. let's get into some of the tips. you talk about making promotion schedules. >> the whole concept, i don't want to creation reactions, i want transactions. i want to inspire you to come back more often. so when i have promotions that recur every tuesday, every
wednesday, it's a predictability. you know you like me on tuesday nights. somebody else might like me on thursday nights, but with that predictability and motivation, i can get more frequency. in the restaurant business, if i can increase business by one business a month, that's a 12% increase in revenue, jj, that's a lot of money. >> yes, that is significant. also not just doing it as days, but special week-long things or month-long things, right? >> absolutely. the busiest month of a sea food chain is lobster month. you can increase revenue by 30% in a month. >> you're creating all of this excitement around something that you probably would be doing anyhow. >> exactly right. excitement creates relevancy, it brings you to the top of the mind, and in my business, you want to have energy. >> it's not just restaurants and bars, you could do this with a clothing store. >> no question about it. people need to remember customers aren't one time, they
are multiple transactions and we need to build a relationship to do that, and four walls marketing, promotions, incentive programs, contact between employees and customers when you promote these things, allbusine >> you mentioned incentive programs. bounceback incentive programs. is that incentive for you coming back? >> absolutely. i'm going to do something today for you coming back soon. >> and maybe also something to get you to bring people. we're talking about getting repeat customers, but they could also be the ones to recruit new ones for you. >> oh, they can be your best of all. don't make them customers. make them ambassadors for your business. >> okay. we do something called the guest card. you come in, your guest eats for free for first visit to the restaurant. >> i want to ask you one quick thing, though. a lot of these are incentives or promotion or money off. does it have to be or can it be -- the lobster fest is not, that's an event. >> that's correct. it doesn't have to be priced. shouldn't be priced. it should be a special event.
a special steak featured, a special menu item you can't normally get, a special entertainer, special pairing of wine and food. or a special pairing of cell phone services. it could be any collection of products to add value and fun. doesn't have to reduce price. >> and then the last tip that we have is use all four walls. use marketing interestingly. >> think of it as your real estate. i want to get signage on the walls, on my tables, in my customers' hands. want to communicate my messages. inside the four walls of your business is a lot of real estate to do that. you want to use it smart. >> john, so good to see you. >> good to be here. >> great to have you in the studio. i suspect you'll be back again soon but out there remotely and talking to you on the screen again. online videos can be a great way to increase your brand recognition and turn fans into customers. here are five tools and resources youtube offers to help you produce and promote effectively. courtesy of practical
e-commerce.com. one, creator hub. you can find education guides and support resources that will help you create effective branding videos. two, analytics. get a comprehensive summary of view count, demographics and audience retention. see if you're reaching your target audience or if you need to change your approach. three, enhance. use this tool to make all of your videos look as if they were professionally shot. you can make tweaks and add effects directly on youtube. four, adding captions is an easy way to expand your audience and improve your search rankings. and, five, next creator is designed to help you refine your skills and get training in how to make compelling content. time now to answer some of your business questions. gene marks is the founder of the marks group, a company that provides technology and consulting services to small and
medium businesses. he also writes for "the new york times" and is author of the new book "the manufacturer's book of lists." and cnbc contributor and investor carol roth is a best-selling author as well. so great to see both of you guys. >> great to see you. >> carol, we wish you were here. >> me too. >> let's get to the first question. this one is about health care. >> when is the right time for a small business owner to provide paid health insurance as a benefit? we are under the amount that is needed in massachusetts to provide it for everyone, so if i don't provide health insurance for myself, at what point should i look at providing it for employees who ask about it? >> good question, right, gene? most of the people who have small businesses are under that 50 employee minimum. >> obviously once you get over the 50 full time equivalent employee thing you're required to do it by law. it is a benefit. it is nothing more than compensation. we have ten employees in our by
we offer it. the reason why we offer it is because our competitors offer it and we're trying to attract good people. for us to say we don't have health insurance, and then, like my competitor says he does, it hurts us when we're trying to recruiting people. it is tougher and tougher to find good people as well. having that as a benefit, i don't think there is one black and white time you should have it. it depends on what you're trying to do for your employees and perspective employees. >> carol, is the point at which you should offer it the point at which you have perspective employees and they say i'm not going to come unless you have health insurance? >> i think that's the right spirit, j.j. can i afford to offer it, but also can i afford to not offer it? it is really that balancing of the scales. what is important to your employees? where are your common values? what are the things that are going to keep them there. especially for a small business, sometimes we underestimate how valuable our employees are. and if that's going to be the differencemaker for them, that's something you're going to want to offer. however, if it is not something
they highly value, if they're going to value more time off, hire compensation, other perks and benefits, you need to listen to what is important to your employees and as gene says look at what your competitors are doing as well. >> okay. let's move on to next question. this is about expanding your brand through social media. >> i want to build my customer base. i would like to hire or at some point in the future get someone to help me with social media. where do i start? i'm operating on a shoestring budget. >> all right, carol, let's start with you. should she hire an intern? where should she go? >> i love the shoestring budget. it is always the shoestring budget. i think you really have to understand that a lot of times you get what you pay for. if you cannot pay for somebody who is really going to do a good job, you may want to just do it yourself. there are plenty of tools out there that make social media very easy for you to use. things like tweet deck owned by
twitter, hoot suite, you can actually manage social media very quickly and efficiently, whether it is preprogramming your posts, or managing all of your interactions in one client area. so i advocate first starting yourself. and then if you decide you do want to hire someone down the road, there are resources like social media clubs in every city or score that you can go to and ask around and i noticed that this woman owned a day spa, and i will tell her, barter, barter, barter. i will help you with your social media if you give me a couple of massages. >> how do you get someone who really understands the essence of who your company is? >> it is funny you say that. maybe i'm just oversimplifying this. but, j.j., i have a woman who helps me with my social media. if you look at my social media, i'm tweeting stuff out all the time. i'm not doing that all the time. i have help doing that. i pay her $25 an hour. i found her on craigslist four years ago after interviewing a bunch of -- >> how does she know what to
tweet, in your voice? >> she's smart, for starters. i went through an interview process to find the right person and over a period of time, like a six, seven-month period of time i worked closely with her so she got my voice, my thing, she got my pattern. she got it. >> thank you so much, so great to see both of you. appreciate it. we were just talking about social media and gene and carol usually post some great advice on twitter. whether it is written by them or not. let's see what some other entrepreneurs and small business experts are tweeting about this week. carmen, owner of urban martial arts in brooklyn tweets, this signage in your retail store must have a call to action. david of all business.com is adamant, never be afraid to raise prices. and frequent your business panel simon with these words of wisdom. the employees must love the company before customers ever will. are you connecting with local businesses to get more
customers? if not, check out our website of the week to start tapping into this resource. alignable.com allows you to share with other companies nearby. you can create a profile on the site and receive some suggestions of campaigns and partnerships that could bring new customers in the door. through the site, you can work with other local businesses to support each other's promotions and then team up for community events. to learn more about today's show, just click on our website. it's openforum.com/yourbusiness. you'll find all of today's segments, plus web exclusive content with more information to help your business grow. we also use a lot of your feedback on twitter. so follow us. it's @msnbcyourbiz. and check out our page on facebook too. next week, with november 30th just around the corner, it's time for our annual small business saturday special. for weeks, small businesses around the country have been
preparing to get customers to bypass the big box stores. this holiday season and shop local. we'll come to you from nyack, new york, where main street has been working hard through the discounts and marketing to get people to spend holiday dollars with independent businesses. from new orleans to portland, oregon, loyalty programs and community pride fuels the shop small movement. and advice on how to keep that shop local movement going all year round. until then, i'm j.j. ramberg. remember, we make your business our business. ♪ ♪ you get your coffee here. you get your hair cut here. you find that certain thing you were looking for here, but actually you get so much more. when you shop at these small local businesses,
you support all the things that make your community great. the money you spend here, stays here. in this place you call your neighborhood. small business saturday is november 30th. get out and shop small. nbc has canceled all regular programs until further notice so we can bring you every facet of this development as it continues to happen. >> 50 years since the assassination of john f. kennedy. since that tragedy, since that inexplicable loss brought about changes, changes in the way we govern, changes in the party, changes in how we cover the american presidency. we'll get to that this morning, we'll try with a remarkable mix of panelists, people who have worked with president kennedy, people who are eyewitnesses to history. people who covered president kennedy, have studied president ke